This piece first appeared in our book “How to become a Talented Performer: A formula for early career success” available at Amazon here
“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
Jeff Bezos, Amazon
Talented Performers recognise and understand that creating a consistently excellent customer experience ‘is’ the business and not just a component of it. The best providers of outstanding customer service are not willing to sacrifice this standard, regardless of the pressures put upon them by the job. They know they may be working in an organisational setting that cares less about customers than they do, yet they continue to provide an incredible level of performance. It is as important to them as individuals to give such great service as it is to the people that they serve to receive it. They know that results and the impacts of their efforts may not be reciprocated immediately (even though they often are!)but they are willing to continue to focus on the person they are delivering for. They are ‘others-aware’ and know that to serve someone else, to a high level on a consistent basis, is not a capability everyone finds easy. Their developed skills in this area are something that organisations view as incredibly valuable.
Another key element of providing this level of service on a consistent, minute-by-minute basis, is that Talented Performers accurately know what great service is. They know what it is to receive it; they know what it is to deliver it and they understand the mind-set and the skills required to nail it each and every time. They also know that to serve excellently is not the same as being a doormat to be walked all over. There is huge difference to being keen to serve and being servile. The former is both an intelligent and honourable position to take; the latter is the position taken by those who lack self-assuredness and/or who misunderstand the difference.
Customer experience vs Customer Service
These two terms are often used in the same sentence to mean different things or in different sentences to mean the same thing. They actually do not mean the same thing. Customer experience is wide, broad and usually something that is systematically addressed at an organisational level. Customers experience an organisation in many ways, including from the reputation they ‘hear’ about, to the advertising they ‘see’, through to how they ‘feel’ about your brand. Customer service is, by comparison, narrow. It is the interactions that customers have directly with staff. In the context of being a customer-focused Talented Performer, we will limit our discussion to the ways that employees interact with customers to provide customer service on an individual basis, usually face-to-face.
Internal vs External
At this point it is important to identify a special category of customers. There are people who are almost certainly never going to pay you a penny for your work: they are the people within your organisation that you support and to whom you provide a service. Your ‘internal’ customers are at least as important as the customers from outside your organisation. You interact with these people on a daily basis. You know some incredibly well, others less so. Some internal customers are peers of yours and some are senior (or very senior) to you. Regardless of their status, you need to be able to provide what they need, when they need it and at a quality that is at least as good as they hoped for. Everything outlined in this chapter is applicable to your interactions with internal customers. Adopting these strategies and tools will enable you to provide outstanding service to your peers, colleagues and team-members as well as those we more traditionally think of as customers
Customers: Why bother?
The Talented Performer Survey highlighted key short to medium-term business challenges that organisations reported they were facing. Central to the list that emerged from the survey was the theme of Growth. Organisations told us that they were focused on keeping current clients and finding new ones. People who succeeded in providing outstanding service were likely to be recognised and rewarded for doing so as it was vital in helping organisations achieve their aims.
Glenn P Wallis helps organisations develop leaders who can positively shape your organisation’s culture. If you want to re-shape your culture through great leadership then please contact Glenn here.